The Case for an iWatch

The Case for an iWatch

There’s been a fair amount of back and forth among us geek folk about the need and want of a watch from Apple. Having spent the last week with the Pebble, I see myself heading more in the direction of wanting Apple to go down this path. While there’s no way to know if Apple plans to make this a reality or what approach they would take, I see where this could fit into my life.

Pebble Problems

As I said in my Pebble review, the product is flawed but shows potential. While they are hard at work trying to integrate the watch with the iPhone in the most logical way possible, there is a real challenge, and it’s one they may struggle to overcome. Unless Apple decides to create a watch specific API, the Pebble, and products like it, are trying to do something that Apple clearly does not want them to do. They’re attempting to use Bluetooth integration to “hack” watch functionality. I’m optimistic that they will overcome many of the limitations, but to some extent—unless things change—watchmakers will always be fighting against them.

But One Thing Is Clear

The interest in the Pebble combined with the array of watch straps for the previous generation Nano seems to have taken hold for many. While I doubt either circumstance turned Apple on to the possibility of a watch, or will even drive them to create one, I can’t imagine they’re ignoring it either (then again, this is Apple). Love it or hate it, there’s something here. A watch may not be necessary (as some have pointed out, an iPhone is essentially a watch in your pocket), but done right, it could be useful.

Boiling Down

I don’t want to get into the limitations of iOS or veer into the debate of it being for “consumption or creation”, but one thing has always been clear: when creating the iPhone, Apple started by looking at what users want from a phone and what they want from a computer. Then they considered the restrictions and made the most logical product possible. Rather than try to put a computer in your pocket, they made a computer for your pocket. That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but by embracing limitations, they created a product that surpassed them. When Apple released the iPhone it was neither phone nor computer, but was something new. I believe they can and probably should do this again with the watch.

Boiling Down Even Further

Some of the mockups I’ve seen try to take what’s best about the iPhone and figure out what it would look like as a watch. How do we watch videos on the watch? How do we respond to texts? How do we check our email? Can we make calls on it? I think we’re making a mistake when we do this. It’s not about how Apple will bring the iPhone to a watch. If they decide to make a watch, what I look forward to is seeing what Apple comes up with when they embrace the limitations. When they take the best of a watch and an iPhone and make something new.

Limitations Will Be The iWatch’s Strength

I obviously have no idea what Apple will create or if they even will create it, but I hope they do. Much as I’m enjoying the Pebble, I want to see what Apple would do. To really thrive, the integration between watch and phone needs to be deep. There’s room for interaction. I’d love the ability to reply with a pre-defined message or remind myself to return a call later without ever taking my phone out of my pocket. Deep as that integration can go, Apple’s best suited to determine how deep it should go. As I said in my review, what I’m loving most about the watch is that it’s a bit hobbled at the moment. Rather than having a firehose on my wrist (in addition to the one on my phone), the restriction of text messages, iMessages and calls is helping me to see the benefit of a focused experience. Rather than trying to do everything, I’d want the iWatch to show what’s most important.

Where The iWatch Fits

When we use a computer, it’s with the intent of doing something, even if that something is just surfing the web. As our phone becomes more powerful, the same is proving to be true. It’s difficult to take our phone out just to see one thing and not end up doing something else (or in my case, going down a half-hour rabbit hole). I hope the iWatch can serve as the place where we see things, but do very little. I hope it shows me only what’s essential rather than attempting to show me everything. Would I like it to do more than the Pebble? Absolutely, but if Apple goes this route, I hope they do what they do best: take something we might not need and make it useful in a way that we would never expect.

Note: For a great and far more abbreviated take, check out Dave Caolo’s thoughts on the potential of a “watch” from Apple.

  • http://twitter.com/HowieGoldfarb HowieG

    Mitch Joel blogged about mobile today that the world is going fully mobile even though he can’t see not needing his Mac Air. I mentioned that in the late 90′s I read Being Digital and that Nicholas Negroponte mentioned voice and AI as the two keys to major advances. While Siri and Google Voice recognition are pretty good one day I can see having a watch and saying a command and a hologram forms in front of me showing me where to buy something or a voice reading me the news like radio or calling a friend.

    The interesting thing is I have no phone right now for a few days and never thought I would miss it so much. So maybe I would feel the same for a watch some day?

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I’m with Mitch. Can’t see myself giving it up anytime soon. You can do some amazing things on iOS, but you need to be super geeky. And I still find heavy lifting far more fluid on OS X. But looking forward, you have to imagine the mobile platform will catch up and possibly surpass.